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Cablevision's labor struggle continues

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 3/7/2013, 4:46 p.m.

In January of 2012, close to 300 technicians voted to become Cablevision's first union workers. A year later, the battle for organized labor at the media giant rages on.

Cablevision said that union members were petitioning the National Labor Relations Board in the hopes of scheduling a vote that could potentially decertify CWA's union status.

"Virtually all Cablevision employees have a direct relationship with the company," said Cablevision in a statement. "Cablevision looks forward to an election at the earliest possible date to allow its Brooklyn employees to determine whether the CWA union will continue to represent them." CWA officials have called this another attempt to intimidate workers after initially firing employees.

As the AmNews reported last week, 23 Cablevision workers were locked out and fired from their jobs. According to the Communications Workers Association, the workers tried to speak with the Cablevision vice president at the Canarsie garage using the company's "open door policy" to talk about management's lack of good faith bargaining. The vice president accused the workers of striking despite the workers stating that they never refused to work.

Cablevision, attempting to curb organization, raised the salary of non-union technicians, but hasn't bargained yet with the organized workers. A week after the firings, elected officials, community leaders, workers activists and mayoral hopefuls trekked to the Canarsie office to push Cablevision to rehire the employees and negotiate a fair contract with them.

Chris Shelton, vice president of CWA District 1, had this to say. "Cablevision-Optimum's disrespect of its employees, federal labor laws and New York City government is appalling. The people of Brooklyn are tired of being abused by Cablevision-Optimum, and will not stand by while one of the most notoriously anti-union companies in New York City insults and mistreats its employees with the worst corporate anti-union outlaw activity in the city in decades."

Mayoral hopeful and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio directed his ire at Cablevision owner James Dolan.

"I feel sometimes that Dolan thinks he's got a cloak of invisibility and we all aren't seeing this," said de Blasio. "If you want some good will, the response needs to be to hire these workers back and sign a contract now, but if what he's trying to do is make people think he doesn't have the interest of New York City in mind, he's doing a really good job."

Mayoral hopeful and Council Speaker Christine Quinn praised the workers for their fight, which has already yielded some small victories.

"The fact that a number of the workers have already been brought back in, be proud of yourselves, 'cause they didn't get brought back in because Jim Dolan found God, they got brought back in because you made them go back to work," Quinn said. "It's a sign that we are winning and we will win, and we're gonna explore every option we can to make sure we get to victory."

Quinn, along with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, pondered the idea of Cablevision violating its franchise agreement by not collectively bargaining with the workers. That's where things stand right now.